By Jacob G. Hornberger
With President Obamaís promise to help the Haitian
people, Americans are once again confronted with a
basic moral question: When the U.S. government gives
money away to people in need, who are the good,
compassionate, caring people in this process?
Is the president the caring person? After all, heís
the one issuing the order that assistance be given.
How about the people who work for the IRS? Without
them, Obama wouldnít have any money to send to the
How about the members of Congress? Theyíre the ones
who authorize the IRS to collect income taxes from
How about us, the taxpayers? Isnít it our money
that the IRS forcibly takes from us and puts at the
disposal of the president?
How about the voters? Well, at the very least those
who voted for President Obama?
How about all Americans, including babies and
children who donít yet pay taxes and vote? Shouldnít
everyone get some moral or religious credit for living
in a country where the government takes money from one
group of people and gives it to another group of
Actually, the money that the U.S. government sends
to Haiti does not reflect any goodness, caring, or
compassion on the part of anyone. If President Obama
wants to help people out, he can send his own money.
The same holds true for the members of Congress. And
the employees of the IRS. And everyone else.
Suppose I walk into a big corporate convention with
a gun. I hold everyone up, and the take is $100,000. I
leave the meeting and immediately buy food, supplies,
and medicine, which I then send to Haiti. I donít keep
any of the money for myself.
Arenít I a good, caring, compassionate person?
Havenít I just helped out the people of Haiti? Donít
those convention people from whom I took the money
fall into the same category? Itís their money, after
all, that Iíve used to help others.
So, whatís the difference between what I have done
and what President Obama is doing? The only difference
is that his actions are legal (well, except that the
Constitution doesnít authorize him to send U.S.
taxpayer money to Haiti or any other country) and mine
are not. I will be arrested as common thief and he
will be extolled as a fantastic humanitarian saint.
But what we have done is no different in principle ó
we have both forcibly taken money that belongs to
others and given it to people in need.
The truth is that charity means nothing in the eyes
of God or in terms of moral and ethical principles
when the money comes from the government. It only has
meaning when it comes from the voluntary and willing
heart of the individual. Thatís why the only
assistance that is genuine, in a moral and religious
sense, is that which comes from the private sector ó
that is, assistance that comes from the voluntary
choices of individuals deciding on what to do with
their own money.
But what if people refuse to donate to people in
need? That is their right. That is what freedom is all
about. If people are not free to say no, then they
cannot be considered free. By the way, thatís what
free will is all about also. While the Lord exhorts us
to love our neighbor, He also gives us the freedom to
make that choice. He does not force us to do the right
Americaís Founding Fathers had it right: no income
tax and no socialistic welfare state. Leave people
free to keep everything they earn and then decide for
themselves what to do with their own money ó donate,
invest, lend, save, hoard, or spend it. It is that
philosophy of economic freedom that we need to restore
to our nation. Not only would it produce the massive
amounts of capital that raise peopleís wealth and
standard of living, it would also provide people with
much more money by which to help others.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The
Future of Freedom Foundation.